Perkins Township police, firefighters and highway workers all continue to work on expired contracts as union negotiations persist.
For months, trustees have constantly met in private to hammer out details on a trio of new union contracts.
Since October, employees from all three unions have worked on their past contracts as their representatives bargain with trustees and department heads. It’s a perfectly legal practice to work on an expired contract, as long as both sides agree to such an arrangement.
Trustees stayed quiet when pressed for specific details about the delay in signing new contracts. They did, however, reveal their respective department budgets could absorb a small raise given to employees. The township collectively takes in and spends about $10 million a year.
In the last contract for each union, all employees received a 1 percent raise in three consecutive years, spanning from mid-2010 through mid-2013. No township unionized employee has received a raise since October.
About 65 of the 75 full-time township workers belong to a union.
“We feel like we can pay it out,” trustee Jeff Ferrell said. “I think we are close on a lot of issues”
The three elected trustees, department heads — the fire chief, police chief, highway superintendent and chief building official — along with some administrators aren’t represented by a union.
Trustees said they could settle the contract as early as late May.
“We’ve been very receptive toward one another, and the negotiations are congenial and honest,” trustee Tim Coleman said. “We respect the union side, and the union is respecting us”
Union representatives and Perkins personnel agreed on one aspect: Don’t cripple the township’s budget.
Neither party wants a repeat of early 2013, when a fiscal crisis forced trustees to eliminate seven positions in the police and highway departments. Six people received their layoff notices with the other unfilled spot axed as well.
“Both sides are doing their best so we are not in that position again” Ferrell said.